This is a guest post by Scott MacDonald, CEO and author of Saving Investa: How An Ex-Factory Worker Helped Save One of Australia’s Iconic Companies.
If your team does not seem to be reaching its potential or achieving its goals, here are some hard questions to ask.
Do you have the right talent?
Some employees are more talented than others, and you may need to upgrade staff. At one time, I took over what was previously a family-owned company. Employees were hired and retained because of loyalty to the owners and their willingness to perform personal services. When competitive conditions dictated a higher level of performance, many of the employees could not step up to the challenges of the new company.
Additionally, sometimes employees have talent but they are in the wrong position. It would be the same as asking a first baseman to play shortstop in baseball. The key to your employees’ success is finding their talent and aligning that with their job. For example, I had an employee once who was performing very poorly as a leasing agent, but I interviewed him and concluded his talent was better suited for administrative duties than for sales. He was reassigned, performed fantastically, and eventually became the head of national collections.
Is there someone on the team who is disruptive and more an individual than a team player?
Some employees are individually brilliant, but they cannot work in a team-based environment. Often they are self-focused and impatient with others who do not work at their speed or agree with their views. I once worked with a former CFO who was very accomplished but had too big an ego to work with others and was often critical of colleagues. After I fired him, the entire company performed better.
Does everyone understand the mission and goals?
Too often, group assignments are handed out without clarity of why the assignment is being given and how it fits the overall strategy.
Is it clear why individuals are being assigned to the team and what role is expected of each?
Do employees understand how their performance, specifically stellar performance, will be considered in their future evaluations? If employees believe an assignment is unimportant and not conducive to career advancement or future financial rewards, they may be less enthusiastic.
Has there been employee “buy in?”
Has an assignment been designed by upper management and forced on the team? Or has the team actually participated in formulating how best to approach a problem, achieve a goal, or capitalize on an opportunity? When employees participate in defining the task and approach, they have a vested interest in achieving success. If they believe someone else has developed the plan and they don’t agree with it, you can expect less effort by many of them.
When I was CEO of a company in Australia, I realized we needed to exit some businesses to survive, but I needed management and employees to agree with the plan or we wouldn’t have the focus and productivity we needed to move forward, especially as employees saw divisions eliminated and fellow coworkers depart. I called senior management together, and we wrote a business plan reflecting our expertise and financial constraints. Then management went to their employees to discuss and solicit feedback. When we initiated subsequent drastic changes, employees and managers were supportive.
Does the team leader operate as a colleague or boss?
Generally, people work harder if they like and respect their leader and feel he or she appreciates and respects their contribution. If a leader’s position and attitude is based on title and not respect and teamwork, the team generally will not perform as well.
Do employees trust management?
If the CEO and senior executives communicate with employees and solicit input, it is much easier to achieve teamwork and solve problems together.
Scott MacDonald has been CEO of several companies and has worked throughout the world as a turn-around expert. His book, Saving Investa, How an ex-factory worker helped save one of Australia’s iconic companies, was published in November, 2016.
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